Asked by The Associated Press’ Jonathan Lemire during an extraordinary press conference with Trump in Helsinki, Finland, Putin acknowledged the “rumors” before evading the question.
“It’s difficult to imagine nonsense of a bigger scale than this,” Putin said, according to a translator. “Well, please, just disregard this issues [sic], and don’t think about this anymore again.”
Among the rumors is the infamous “pee tape,” a purported recording that supposedly contains footage of Trump and urinating prostitutes at a Moscow hotel in 2013, when the then-reality television star and “Miss Universe” owner was there for that year’s pageant hosted in Moscow.
Putin on Monday claimed that he “didn’t even know” Trump was in Moscow at that time.
“I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then, when he was a private individual, nobody informed me he was in Moscow,” Putin said.
But it has been widely reported that Trump and Putin were in fact in contact.
Putin reportedly could not meet with Trump but sent him a gift, according to the Washington Post. The Post also reported that Trump wrote Putin a personal letter inviting him to the pageant.
Trump himself claimed in 2014 that Putin contacted him at the time.
“When I went to Russia for the Miss Universe Pageant, Putin contacted me. And was so nice,” he said in a Fox News interview.
During his 2013 visit, Trump told MSNBC that Putin ”[is] very interested in what we’re doing here today.”
“I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form, but I do have a relationship with him,” Trump said.
And in June 2013, Trump famously tweeted about potentially meeting Putin and whether he would “become my new best friend.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace taped following Monday’s press conference in Helsinki, Putin denied having compromising information or material on Trump.
“We don’t have anything on them,” Putin said. “I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this, and I may come [off] as rude, but before he announced that he would run for the presidency he was of no interest for us. He was a rich person, but there’s plenty of rich persons in the United States. He was in the construction business. He organized the beauty pageants. But it never occurred to anyone that he would think of running for president. He never mentioned his political ambitions.”
Putin argued that his country does not “have enough resources” to conduct extensive surveillance on business visitors, as Trump would have been considered in 2013, while they are in Russia.
“We don’t do this. We don’t have enough resources, we don’t have enough manpower to organize the total state of control,” he said. “We did nothing of that kind against Mr. Trump.”
This has been updated with Putin’s comments on Fox News.